Search Google all you want, I assure you – you will never find the answer to that question.
So many people ask me questions on this subject, all the time. And even agents themselves want to know!
I don’t know what conclusions you can draw from the data, but I do know that TREB doesn’t make this available.
So I will. What the hell…
Like I said – what conclusions can we draw?
Good or bad?
I’m scratching my head, trying to think of how the public might react to this data, both optimistically, and pessimistically.
The average person might want to know, “How many licensed Realtors complete zero transactions per year?” It’s a great question. Would TREB provide an answer, if asked? What is the upside? What is the downside? How can you create an argument either way?
If 10% of Realtors perform zero transactions, is that better than if it were 5%, or worse? What kind of argument are we making?
So I’m going to provide you with all the data today, and answers to just about all the questions you can ask.
First, the disclaimers:
1) This data is not coming from TREB. It’s coming from a third-party company that tracks the data.
2) The third-party only tracks agents that have performed a transaction (sales, not leases) in the past 12 months, and does not include commercial, farm, exclusives, etc.
3) There were 50,010 Realtors licensed through TREB at the end of December, 2017.
4) The sales data is for the entirety of 2017.
5) These statistics are not 100% accurate. I have looked at the transactions they have listed for me, personally, and I find it to be 100% accurate. But this data has to be taken with a rounding error.
There are so many questions to ask here, I’m like a kid on Christmas; I almost don’t know where to begin.
So we know that there are 50,000 licensed Realtors at TREB, I guess the first question that I would want to know is, “How many licensed agents performed zero transactions in 2017?”
Yes, that’s the first question on my mind.
Call me a sadist, but I just really want to know
Any guesses, folks?
Any ideas on the number, or percentages?
Wanna throw out a number before you scroll down?
Here, I’ll help you avoid the temptation to move along without guessing. Just try – out of 50,000, how many did zero transactions in 2017?
How about 17,313 agents. Out of 50,000.
Does that sound high or low?
That’s 34.6% of all Realtors licensed through TREB, who did zero transactions in 2017.
If I were on the outside looking in, I’d think that number is high.
That’s almost a third! And while we know that not everybody who has a real estate license is active, surely you’d assume that your friend Wally, who is a full-time bartender but has his real estate license just in case any of you want to buy a condo, represents a lot lower percentage of the gang!
Okay, so how many agents did one transaction in 2017?
Which means that the number of licensed Realtors who did one or fewer transactions in 2017 is………………..51.3%.
Is that shocking, or what?
HALF of all the licensed agents by the Toronto Real Estate Board are doing one or fewer transactions. It just boggles the mind.
Now I could go on to two, then three, then four, and so on, but I think you get the idea at the lower end.
How about the idea of, say, “enough money to make a living?”
I suppose we need to define “a living,” but since we know the $15/hour minimum wage will bring the minimum salary up to $30,000 per year ($15 x 40 hours, x 50 weeks, or more if you’re paid for vacation), then clearly we can’t look at $30,000, or anything close to it.
I’m looking for at least a “decent” living.
Let’s look at the number of licensed Realtors that perform four or more transactions per year. Why four? Well, I have a theory that four transactions is the magic number to make “a decent living” in real estate.
So first, let me test that theory.
I want to know the “dollar volume of sales” for your average agent doing 4 transactions in 2017.
What does that mean? If you did sales of $1,100,000, $425,000, $725,000, and $1,981,000, your dollar volume of sales would be $4,231,000.
There were 2,738 agents who did four sales in 2017, so I’ve taken a random sample of 500 of those agents, looking for the average dollar volume of sales.
From my random sample, the average is $2,985,716.
Let’s assume a 2.5% commission on these sales.
That would mean the average agent who does 4 transactions per year is making a gross commission of $74,642.90.
That’s not chump change, am I right? It’s far more than the average Torontonian makes in a year!
But consider that this is the gross commission, and the agent still needs to split with their brokerage.
Brokerage splits vary across the city, and across different business models.
When I started with Bosley Real Estate in 2004, I was on a 60/40 commission split, which very few, if any (including Bosley) brokerages still have today.
On the other hand, there are many “virtual brokerages” that offer a 100/0 split, with a per-transaction fee, desk fee, and/or other fees.
So while most agents at full-service brokerages, who gross $74,642.90 per year, would find themselves on a 70/30 split, let’s factor in the virtual models, and call this an 80/20 split.
With that average agent paying a 20% split to their brokerage, the $74,642.90 ends up putting $59,714.32 into their pocket.
Still a fantastic living, right?
But there are fees! Lots of fees! The Toronto Real Estate Board, Canadian Real Estate Association, Real Estate Council of Ontario, and so forth. Call it perhaps $4,000.
Now the agent is down to $55,714.32, but still a great living.
What about all the courses? There are several courses you need to take to get licensed, then some more “articling” courses in the two years after you obtain your license, then these cash-grab courses they call “continuing education.” While most of the money is paid up front, I’d say if you average out the first five years, you’re $1,500 per year.
Now we’re down to $54,214.32
What about expenses?
Maybe these agents doing four transactions per year aren’t buying billboards, but they sure are spending!
You pay for everything in real estate, no matter the brokerage. At $1.50 per feature sheet, that adds up over the course of a year!
Even agents doing four transactions per year have to be spending at least $10,000 per year. Many agents spend that per week, but let’s be conservative here.
So now the $74,642.90 is down to $44,214.32.
And I’m going ignore things like car leases and insurance, because while those are legitimate write-offs in the business, if this person wasn’t in real estate, they’d probably still have a car and car insurance. Same goes for a host of other items that I could claim to bring that $44K number lower, but for now, let’s say we’re done.
That’s a lot more than a LOT of people make!
But it doesn’t make you rich, and it’s nowhere close to the $77,642.90 gross amount that agents doing 4 transactions per year say they do.
So now the big reveal: how many agents are doing MORE than four transactions per year?
One in four agents licensed by the Toronto Real Estate Board is netting more than $44,000 per year.
Or if you’re an aspiring Realtor, you can say, “I have a one-in-four chance of making more than $44,000 per year; do I like those odds?”
I had a lot of fun with these numbers, folks.
How many agents do you think do ten or more transactions in a year?
So perhaps now it’s time for me to provide the bigger reveal, and show you the breakdown:
I showed this to a few folks at my office, and two of them said, “You’re looking at greater than or equal to,” ie five or more transactions. I was told I should look at less than, since it might be more interesting to those who choose to see the cup half empty.
And you know? I thought this was a neat way of looking at things to.
So here’s the data in a different light:
“Less than 1” is a nice way of saying, “Zero.”
For those curious about the numbers closer to the top, I can’t reveal names.
But if you want to know which “agent” did the most deals apparently, one guy did 603 sales.
But at the same time, not really.
A lot of agents have a “team” working for them, and even though a team-member completes a transaction, the sale is still reported under that one agent’s name.
It is physically impossible for one agent to complete 100 deals or more without any help. So the 603 deals at the top is silly.
Next five down the list?
Again, those are teams masquerading as agents.
39 agents are credited with having completed 100+ transactions. The reason I didn’t have a line for “100+” on my chart above is because, as I mentioned, these numbers aren’t truly indicative of how many deals these agents are doing. But nevertheless, that’s impressive!
So just as we read “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as kids, you can feel free to draw your own conclusions on the data above…
I have been informed that there were exactly 50,010 agents licensed by TREB at the end of December, 2017. So I am editing the above blog post, from the 48,000 Realtors I had previously estimated, to reflect this.
For the cynics, this makes the data look worse, not better, so I assure you this change is in the interest of accuracy.
The changes are reflected in the two charts provided, as well as point #3 in the discalimer.
at 7:40 am
Let’s play a game. How many deals did David do?
I’ll guess 74.
at 7:22 pm
He’s labelled himself an ‘open book’ on this thing before, but even I think this is over the line. May as well ask him how big his D*** is while you’re at it.
at 9:05 am
When I interviewed David for last year for a potential listing he brought along with him a very impressive sales presentation package and in there it did refer to the amount of sales he was involved with. I can’t recall the stat though but it was quite good.
at 1:39 pm
I’ll guess 74.
at 8:41 pm
David does buy billboard space ….
at 8:55 am
Of the agents that did 0 how many would. you think are under the larger teams? I would think several of the larger teams may have 10+ agents that are not recording any sales under their names, but still making a decent living.
Overall what # of transactions would one have to do to be considered a top agent or successful. I am assuming 20 ends would be sufficient.
at 9:16 am
This seems to be about right for the pareto principle — 20% or so of the agents are doing 80% of the deals (roughly, I didn’t actually do the math).
at 10:20 am
Commissions are so damn high, it makes sense to get your license just to buy your own home. Seriously. I did it. Saved over $100,000 by representing myself buying my house (i know, I know,,,, I’m not insured if I did that and I don’t have the 10 years experience and market knowledge blah blah…) and I got a decent rebate on the listing commission when I sold my house. For that I hired an agent… but she gave me a rebate because I was an agent. Seriously, why would anyone not especially in a hot market when it sells in a day for above ask? Now, should the market change or be in transition there is more risk, but in my mind, worth the reward.
Maybe that’s why we have so many “one and done” agents?
at 10:31 am
That makes total sense if you have the time to complete the courses. How long did it take you to complete the courses and pass exams and how many hours/per week did you have to invest? Did you get it strictly to sell your house or are you keeping it to dabble and make a sale occasionally?
at 10:56 am
I also know a person who got his license just to do his own personal real estate transactions, which is maybe one every 4-5 years.
He and Johnny Chase can’t be the only two in a 6 million person mega city.
at 12:42 pm
I think I got my license in about 9 months. Not much work at all. one course was correspondence then the others were in class so you need to take a couple of weeks off work or take them on holidays or evenings. Then you have to take 3 courses within the first year. Then I park my license. Used it once since then when I bought a commercial property 5 years later and saved another $30K.
Maybe that’s what there are so many people who have only done one transaction.
at 2:19 pm
A blind monkey could pass those licensing tests…
at 10:50 am
I had a friend that did it in order to sell his mom’s home and help her purchase a new one. Saved her tens of thousands. He hasn’t done anything since then.
Definitely makes sense if you have the time, but like you, even if I had a licence I would hire an experienced agent to sell my home.
at 10:21 am
The most surprising number for me is the total number of agents in this. The first time I heard it I thought it was really high though not unexpected once one thinks about it given the state of the market. What would be interesting to know is what the historical numbers are to correlate it with the market cycle. I know in 89 everyone and their mother was getting their license and somewhere in there is a ratio to be had that could indicate market highs/lows.
Regarding making a living I am sure many people get their license while working another full/part time job. Considering you can increase your minimum wage salary by about 50% if you can manage to make two sales in a year after expenses that doesn’t seem too bad. Even if one makes $60k, a 20% “bonus” is nothing to sneeze at.
WRT the break down I know David has made fun of the unfortunate who make one or 0 sales per year in previous blog posts but if even the ones that have 0 sales who are part of teams as Joel points out can be accounted for then it’s not as bleak as many would have us believe. I am sure many with a low sales number are flippers who want to save on the realtor fees.
I would imagine anyone with a decent network who puts in a reasonable effort should be able to string a few sales together to make minimum wage. I can think of all sorts of scenarios where a couple of deals per year can be considered a success. Most of them would be supplementing other income or a spouses income.
at 11:22 am
As for the 0 number – I would say a handful of ‘sales people’ in our office are licenced but in strictly administrative roles – and we cannot be the only office to do so (commercial real estate).
at 12:46 pm
Good point Sarah!
Dave – there are thousand’s of people in commercial real estate who need licenses yet never sells homes or post on anything on MLS, yet do billions of dollars in transaction value in a year.
at 4:58 pm
at 1:09 pm
There are those agents who close deals and then there are those who write lengthy blog posts every day.
at 8:11 am
Right at the beginning David pointed out that these numbers do not include commercial, exclusive, farm, etc. sales.
at 12:26 pm
Excellent article! Thanks for the stats.
at 12:38 pm
It made sense to have a license in the seller market when your property will sell anyway and you can enjoy 2.5% + another 2.5% when you buy a new house. 1 mln house – 25 K minus expenses, certainly a thing to consider. I personally would rather negotiate and lower my agent commission without the pain of going through certification process and brokerage employment.
at 6:43 pm
So who is the number one agent in Toronto who doesn’t rely on a team?
at 10:41 pm
Great write up. Thanx David
Retired Real Estate Broker
at 4:12 pm
More real world evidence that shatters the image of what the term’ average’ means to most people.
One is reminded of the Peter Principle, where the theory purports that most people in large organizations rise to their level of incompetence: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle
Stay in sales David – it’s the best deal going. I know it’s tough re-inventing yourself year after year, and nothing is guaranteed – but your making more than 90% of the Broker / Owners out there. Just remember that.
at 9:11 am
Thanks for this, David. Insightful (and eye-opening) as always. Another suggestion for analyzing the data: if possible, exclude agents that have had their licence less than a year. This mirrors a common practice in retail performance stats – stores open less than a year are excluded from the count. When McDonalds, American Eagle, or Foot Locker reports sales, they are always expressed as ‘same store sales’ that is, stores that have been open a year or more. This is to eliminate mid-calendar-year openings (stores which will naturally have lower sales for the year) and also to allow stores to get settled in their local market and build awareness and customers. Newbies to real estate are still training, building their base and generally getting up to speed. But after a year should be considered fully countable. A thought for the future. Thanks again.
at 2:05 pm
David, you got a mention on Garth Turner’s blog: http://www.greaterfool.ca/2018/01/30/the-unloved-2/